Peak Oil, Neoliberalism and Think Left

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The intention of Think Left is to add to the left-wing voices challenging the remaining vestiges of New Labour ideology.  Each author is a member of the Labour Party and they take individual responsibility for the views that they express.  However, all share the common aim of wanting a contemporary LP which incorporates the values of socialism into policies for future government… a Labour Party that will tackle ‘the huge institutional blockages of neo-liberal capitalism’ (1).

It is now widely accepted that the Third way of New Labour was a continuum with Thatcherism and the policies of deregulation and globalization which led to the credit crunch of 2008 (2).

The Coalition government far from abandoning this clearly disastrous and now discredited economic framework, have utilized the crisis to justify unnecessary cuts and a draconian process of dismantling and privatizing the Welfare State, the NHS and education.

This is the nature of neoliberalism.  Any economic crisis, war or natural disaster is managed and manipulated to justify an ‘upward redistribution of wealth accumulation by dispossession’.  The main techniques, in the modern neoliberal sense, for dispossessing  (‘parasitising’) the wider population are through privatisations and commodification, financialisation, and state redistributions.

‘…neoliberalism is essentially about the reconstitution of class power by the global economic elite.  Thus neoliberalism in its practice has not been a “utopian project to realize a theoretical design for the reorganization of international capitalism” …. but a practical political project meant to restore the power of economic elites…. a kind of one sided neoliberalism, where government intervention is bad if it would protect labour or the environment, but government intervention is good if it will help economic elites.’ (3)

The implicit consequences of the Coalition government’s stated policies of cuts would result in less spending on public services in the UK than that of the US by 2014/15 (4).

The next Labour government must govern in the interests of the overwhelming majority, promoting equality, fairness and protection of the vulnerable …  and in particular protection of the disabled and long-term sick who are under horrifying attack by the coalition government.  There must also be an end to the hidden agendas, the ‘economies with the truth’, the ‘good days to reveal bad news’ … an end to the lying and manipulation.

However, there is an even greater related threat that does not seem to be fully appreciated by the mainstream media or our politicians.

 

The crisis of energy, peak oil production and climate warming. 

Not only has de-regulation had its impact in hastening these crises but the global population and the global economy face dire consequences from our dependence on fossil fuels.  As the 2006 Stern report moderately states:

As we reach the peak of oil production, we can almost certainly expect enormous hikes in the price of oil, combined with enormous and unpredictable dips.

 

In 2008, Stern was reported as saying that he had “badly underestimated the degree of damages and risks of climate change” in his ground-breaking 2006 report.’ (5)

 

Marxist economist and ecologist John Bellamy Foster (27.08.11) is more explicit about the inability of neoliberal capitalism to address climate change. 

‘….as the global financial crisis has turned now into a global stagnation that is affecting the economies of the triad (the United States, Europe and Japan) and much of the rest of the world … the system is unlikely to respond to climate change at all…..public attention is diverted from climate change as an issue, necessary actions are not taken while the overall problem gets worse.

The truth is that the capitalist system is unable to respond to climate change: either in periods of prosperity or stagnation, and in the latter case everything but the latest stock quotes and profit figures recede into the background.’ (6)

 

Former scientific director at Greenpeace, Jeremy Leggett (31.05.11) says ‘the dangers of peak oil are actually much worse than the credit crunch’ even if one ignores the question of emissions and climate warming.

In 2008, a group of large companies completed a business risk assessment exercise and unanimously concluded that not only was peak oil of very high consequence and very high risk but the probability is that we will reach peak oil within the next 4 years … by 2015 (7).

At some time after that point, producer countries will begin to restrict oil exports for their own domestic consumption.  The price of oil will explode but there will likely be actual shortages which will cause massive economic and social disruption.

We, in Think left, will make it a priority to focus on the imperative that an incoming Labour government be ready to address this emerging crisis, with its potentially dire consequences for the UK because it is clear that the Coalition government is not taking the very urgent and necessary steps to de-carbonise our economy.

(1) http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2011/04/blue-labour-no-thanks/#more-2264

(2) www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/grenoble/ws6/barry_paterson.pdf.

(3) http://www.blogisdead.net/2009/02/review-of-david-harveys-brief-history.html

  (4) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2011.02169.x/full 

(5)  The Stern Report http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/1804159/stern-admits-report-badly-underestimated-climate-change-risks

(6)    John Bellamy Foster  http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=5273

(7 )  Jeremy Leggett http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPKLKWIh3gA&feature=youtu.be

Written contributions welcome from those who share our analysis, philosophy and priorities.

Please contact us at admin@think-left.org